By Spencer D Gear PhD
This is a familiar topic in secular and Christian discussions. It’s the classic objection to Christianity. I sometimes encounter non-Christians on Christian forums who engage in bashing of Christian values and pooh-poohing ideas of an authoritative Scripture.
Michael Cohen explains it in his Christianity Today article, ‘Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?’
I met one such person in Jim with this approach on a Christian forum.
God’s sovereignty and free will
The topic was God’s absolute sovereignty and I made this statement:
The sovereign Lord God has given human beings free will and in that free will they choose good and evil actions.
The consequences of those actions are worked out in history but there will be an ultimate accounting at the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
Sadly, those evil actions have resulted in September 11, Hitler and the Holocaust, what is happening in Iraq and Syria today, and the Ebola outbreak.
If God were to step in to stop the ISIL slaughter and Ebola, he may have to do it for all free will decisions. Would you like all free will choices taken out of your life? I wouldn’t like it to happen to me. I enjoy my occasional barramundi or whiting fish fried and cold salad (especially coleslaw).
Jim’s response was thoughtful:
And that option makes some sense when you’re talking about human evil.
But where’s the human evil in the Ebola outbreak?
Where’s the human evil that specifically determined who died in the World Trade Center and who survived?
How is "human evil" relevant when you’re talking about a seemingly impersonal tragedy such as someone being killed in an earthquake?
You asked a simple question: how does one deal with God’s sovereignty in the face of various atrocities, and I can certainly accept that human free will plays a big part. But the bigger question isn’t simply about human-caused evil, but why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was the question posed by a wonderful book in the 1980’s, and I agree with the author’s conclusion that it’s because God is not absolutely sovereign.
Are there any ‘good’ people?
My response was that this is the error of considering that ‘bad things happen to good people’. There are no such people who before God are able to be called ‘good people’. Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will (Genesis 3)?
The fact is that God is absolutely sovereign but that sovereignty includes, (1) The actions of sinful human beings, and (2) the consequences of the Fall into sin.
Evil will be eliminated at Jesus’ second coming. Are you ready to meet him and bow in humble submission to him?
This person’s reaction as a non-Christian was predictable:
Spencer: ‘This is the error of considering that “bad things happen to good people”. There are no such people who before God are able to be called “good people”’
Jim: ‘Spare me. I’ve heard that nauseating nonsense too many times: bad things happen to good people, because "there are NO good people". So a child today in the ghetto is struck and killed by a stray bullet because HE is sinful, or because Adam and Eve sinned against God? How precisely does it work?
Spencer: ‘Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will’.
Jim: ‘I understand that many people have believed that throughout the ages, and I thoroughly, utterly reject it’.
My response was: I’m sure glad that I don’t seek your advice for accuracy on the human condition – from conception to old age.
Your worldview is diametrically opposed to that of God’s. How do I know? He has told us in Scripture, but you don’t seem to have any time for God’s view on the condition of all human beings. None of us is God. This is the God’s eye view:
Psalm 51:5, ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me’.
Mark 10:18, ‘"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good – except God alone’.
Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (NIV).
Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
Mark 2:17, ‘On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"’.
If you don’t accept God’s diagnosis while you have breath in your body, you’ll come face to face with God’s diagnosis one second after your last breath. I urge you to interact with me or any other Christian here, before it’s too late.
Predictably, Jim did not like this reply. To my statement that I’m pleased I don’t seek his advice on the accuracy of the human condition, his reply was, ‘I guess it’s just as well from my standpoint, too, since I’m not particularly interested in giving any advice on that subject. That said, I’m just as capable as you or anyone else to comment on the ‘human condition’.
As for my saying that he has no time for God’s view on the condition of all human beings, he said, ‘Wrong. I simply don’t consider Scripture to be the final word on "God’s view"’.
He seemed to act dumb when I asked about his rejection of God’s diagnosis when he takes his last breath and comes face to face with God at death. His evasive word was, ‘Meaning……?’
My further response was that he was as capable as I in commenting on the human condition, but up to this point I have not seen him being sympathetic to God’s view of the sinful human condition. Is that true or not?
To his statement, ‘I simply don’t consider Scripture to be the final word on "God’s view"’, I asked: What is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition? Where do I go to find it?
He asked about the ‘meaning’ of my statement about coming face to face with God’s diagnosis of the human condition at death (one second after his last breath).
My meaning was this: Up to this point on this forum, I’ve read your hostility and rejection of God’s diagnosis and solution for the human condition that is revealed in Scripture.
This is what he and I will face at death: ‘Just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people’ (Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT).
I called on him to dialogue with us on this forum about what will prevent him from experiencing God’s judgment one second after his last breath.
This is a serious business.
To another poster, Jim made the comment: ‘And we’ve come a long way in that department [to predict and know what to do with natural disasters], but Mother Nature will always be inherently unpredictable to a degree’.
My reply was that he wants to place the blame on ‘Mother Nature’ and its ‘inherently unpredictable’ degree is a L-O-N-G way from the subject of the original post that I started, ‘Is God absolutely sovereign?’
The sovereign Lord God is not ‘inherently unpredictable’, based on his nature of perfection, it is ‘inherently unpredictable’ to you because you place the blame on a nebulous cause, ‘Mother Nature’.
The all-knowing, omnipotent, omniscient Lord God Almighty acts according to his just nature. Second Chronicle 19:7 exposes God’s nature: ‘Let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes’ (ESV).
He’s the One who is sovereign LORD of the universe. You and I have to answer to Him and not to ‘Mother Nature’.
Do human beings create suffering?
Jim asked at another point, ‘Does Man create ALL of his suffering? Are people responsible for the deaths that result from natural disasters?’ My reply was, ‘Who caused the universal flood in Noah’s day? Why did it happen? Was it a ‘natural disaster’ according to your definition?’
So is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ was Jim’s request?
This is my view. I have attempted to provide and answer these two questions in a more detailed way in my article, ‘Does God send cyclones?‘
There are basic answers to these 2 questions, but he doesn’t like it when I present Bible answers. In my article I provide the biblical material with practical ramifications, but the basic answers are:
1. There is much suffering that is caused by human beings and their sinful condition. I’m thinking of domestic and child abuse (including paedophilia), corruption in governments, murder, lying, stealing, and even those who build houses in cyclone and flood prone regions of my country.
The Fall into sin by Adam & Eve (Genesis 3) explains how this began and infected the entire human race. But he doesn’t like that explanation.
We can face consequences of this in the here and now with abuse in families, corrupt govts, break and enters, murder, earthquakes, tornadoes, typhoons, cyclones, floods, wars, etc.
2. God can cause disaster for His reasons. He doesn’t always tell us the whys. Isaiah 45:7 provides this statement from the Lord, ‘I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD who does all these things’ (ESV).
Why did God cause the calamity at the time of Noah? He told us: ‘The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart’ (Gen 6:5-6).
As a result, God wiped out the entire human race, except 8 people, through the flood at Noah’s time. Therefore, the evil of people caused God to act in judgement.
Resistance to God’s view
At last this person began to respond to my statement: ‘Up to this point I have not seen you being sympathetic to God’s view of the sinful human condition. Is that true or not?’ His reply was that this is
impossible to answer, since I don’t accept the premise on which the question is based.
There really is no point in continuing this so long as you persist in framing questions in such a way that presumes I accept the underlying premises. I don’t.
Reasonable people can disagree about most things, including questions of faith. But to persist in asking questions in this manner conveys an utter lack of respect and regard for the person with whom you’re corresponding.
As for my question, ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?’ he was at least to give his view that ‘There is none’. As for my statement about his hostility and rejection of God’s diagnosis and solution of the human condition revealed in Scripture, he was prepared to admit:
Rejection, yes. Hostility, no. I’d challenge you to find a single word of mine that conveys ‘hostility’.
As for my citing, Hebrews 9:27-28 (NLT), he said,
This is a good example of what I mentioned above.
If you’ve understood any of what I’d written, you’d know that I don’t believe something is "God’s word" simply because it appears in the Bible. Obviously, you strongly disagree, and I respect that. But to persist in writing as if it’s simply ‘understood’ that the Bible IS God’s word is to convey a simple lack of respect in return for me.
My request for him ‘to dialogue with us on this forum about what will prevent you from experiencing God’s judgment’, met with this response:
Please elaborate as to what you think will happen to me as a result of this judgement. (Now, before you respond, try to keep in mind that a simple verse from Scripture isn’t going to cut it with me.)
We have a difficulty with obtaining common ground about that nature of God’s judgment, because I don’t know his position on the existence of God. Can we start there?
Do you believe in God? If so, what is his/her nature?
Are you an atheist or agnostic? If so, what causes you to accept that position?
I explained further: You don’t have to accept the perspective I’m espousing that God’s view of the human condition is contained in Scripture, but would you please tell me what Scripture teaches about the human condition? You are the one talking about ‘reasonable people’ who can disagree. Please demonstrate to me that you are a reasonable person who demonstrates the evidence of God’s view of the human condition as stated in Scripture.
Since you don’t accept the underlying Christian world and life view that I espouse, please provide the evidence to me (and us) why you don’t accept such. Let’s start with the subject of the human condition.
You claim that ‘to persist in asking questions in this manner conveys an utter lack of respect and regard for the person with whom you’re corresponding’. No it doesn’t Jim. You have come to this Christian Forum and you DON’T want to deal with the Christian issues I raise. Who is the one showing disrespect for the Christian values espoused by me on this forum? You are the one who is guilty of this. Over and over on this forum you have ‘bashed’ Christian values. Who is the disrespectful one who comes to a Christian forum to castigate Christian values?
The human condition
There are many Scriptures that teach about the common human condition. This one summarises it: ‘When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned’ (Romans 5:12 NLT).
Jim had stated:
‘Maybe NO scripture teaches about the human condition. More fundamentally, maybe God doesn’t HAVE a view of the human condition.
OTOH (On the other hand), maybe there are multiple views of the human condition from literally hundreds of sources. How are we to know which is the true view?
Yes, there are multiple explanations of the human condition – humans explaining what they THINK caused it. How do we know the true view? That’s why I’d like to introduce you to the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – God himself in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But you won’t be able to consider that option until you are open to examining the trustworthiness of Scripture. At this stage I haven’t seen that you are open to such.
When you are, you might like to consider some of the sound reasons for accepting the Bible as a trustworthy, reliable book. At the popular level, I have attempted to address these in:
Spencer: ‘Please demonstrate to me that you are a reasonable person who demonstrates the evidence of God’s view of the human condition as stated in Scripture’.
Jim: ‘I’m not at all certain what you’re asking’.
Spencer: Simply, if you want to know God’s view of the human condition, a reasonable person will go to Scripture to discover it. I ask you to go to the Bible to discern God’s view on why human beings act the way they do in some horrible actions of evil from lying and stealing to Hitler’s Holocaust and what ISIS is doing today. I’m happy to provide some biblical guidance if you don’t know where to start in searching the Bible for God’s explanation of the origin of evil.
Jim: ‘The burden of proof is not on me to disprove Scripture; it’s on YOU to prove it, or explain why it’s authoritative. This is something you can’t do, of course; nobody can. It has to be accepted or rejected on faith’.
Spencer: This statement is laden with his presuppositions:
(1) The burden of proof is on me as a Christian to PROVE Scripture.
This is not so when you make a statement against Scripture and you provide no evidence to prove your statement.
(2) Evidence needs to be presented by only one side – the Christian.
This again is not the case. The evidence needs to be examined by both of us – you the non-Christian and me the non-Christian.
(3) Nobody can prove Scripture as authoritative.
This is false and the links to my articles above should provide ample evidence to disprove your claim. The essence is that I demonstrate that the Bible is a reliable historical document and then I go to that reliable document to discover what it states about its own authority. We use the same mechanism to discover how reliable the writings are of Julius Caesar and what he says about himself and what he wrote.
(4) The Scripture has to be accepted as authoritative, based on faith.
This is false again, based on the information I’ve already demonstrated in the 4 articles for which I’ve provided links: ‘Can you trust the Bible?’
And the fact that this is a Christian Fellowship Forum is beside the point. There are constantly disagreements here among Christians over matters of faith, doctrine and politics. Some of the language gets quite heated and vitriolic; more than any language I use.
But to continue to invoke Scripture as a source for your statements even after I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t consider Scripture authoritative is either: 1) intentionally disrespectful; or, 2) evidence that this is only a one-way conversation on your part and you really aren’t reading or considering what I’m saying.
Disagreement over faith, doctrine, politics, etc. is to be expected in any kind of interpretation by sinful human beings (as you and I are discovering in our conversation).
I hope that my providing you with links to ‘Can you trust the Bible?‘ will demonstrate that there are sound, rational reasons for regarding the Bible as authoritative. Citing from the authoritative Bible (in spite of your objections) should encourage you to investigate the reasons for regarding the Bible as trustworthy. To continue to quote the Bible is not disrespectful by me; it is quoting a reliable source.
I responded: I am open to hearing what you are saying and responding accordingly, but you do have a bad habit of putting people down who have good reasons for regarding the Bible as trustworthy and authoritative.
Jim: ‘Which specific Christian values have I bashed? Again, Spencer, there is far more ‘bashing’ that goes on here directed from one Christian to another than anything I’m ever involved in’.
I am dealing here with the way you oppose (bash) Christian values. You have done it here with me when you slam dunk the fact that I support the authoritative Christian Scriptures. Take your statement, ‘Nobody can prove Scripture as authoritative’. That’s a deliberate slamming of a Christian value – the authoritative Scripture. ‘Nobody can prove’ is Jim’s absolutistic statement against a Christian value of the trustworthy Scripture. You surely have not investigated every attempt to demonstrate the authoritative Scripture for you to say emphatically, ‘Nobody can prove’. Here in this post you give an example of how you engage in bashing a Christian value.
Here is another example in your post of slamming a Christian value.
Spencer: ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?’
Jim: ‘There is none’.
Spencer: ‘Who said? Jim?’
Jim: ‘Of course. I’m the one you’re talking to. Who else would it be?’
The topic is ‘Who has the final word on God’s view of the human condition?’ Jim’s slamming of this value was, ‘There is none’. My come back was: ‘Who said? Jim?’ and your response was that you’re the one I’m walking to. ‘Who else would it be?’
But you seem to have forgotten the question: ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?
I didn’t ask for Jim’s view of the human condition but God’s view. Do you understand how you slam Christian values and you don’t seem to realise what you are doing?
Another example of Jim’s ‘bashing’ Christian values was his response to my statement, ‘This is the error of considering that ‘bad things happen to good people’. There are no such people who before God are able to be called ‘good people’.
His reply was, ‘Spare me. I’ve heard that nauseating nonsense too many times: bad things happen to good people, because "there are NO good people”. So a child today in the ghetto is struck and killed by a stray bullet because HE is sinful, or because Adam and Eve sinned against God? How precisely does it work?’. ‘Nauseating nonsense’ is clearly Christian bashing.
An additional example of his put down of Christianity is his response to my question, ‘Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will?’ His reply was: ‘I understand that many people have believed that throughout the ages, and I thoroughly, utterly reject it’.
Another put down of Christianity by Jim: ‘But the bigger question isn’t simply about human-caused evil, but why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was the question posed by a wonderful book in the 1980’s, and I agree with the author’s conclusion that it’s because God is not absolutely sovereign’.
For a refutation of this, see my article, Is God absolutely sovereign?
 Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Is God absolutely sovereign?’ ozspen#18. Available at: http://forums.compuserve.com/discussions/Christian_Fellowship_Forum/_/_/ws-fellowship/123619.11 (Accessed 19 October 2014).
 Ibid., Jim Odom#21.
 Ibid., ozspen#23.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#24.
 Ibid., ozspen#38.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#43.
 Ibid., ozspen#46.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#30.
 Ibid., ozspen#42.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#44.
 Ibid., ozspen#64.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#48.
 This is my response at ibid., ozspen#65.
 Ibid., ozspen#53.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#55.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#24.
 Ibid., Jim Odom#21.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.